Posted on 2012-Sep-28
Reading has become a new trend for people living in the smartphone era, habitually staring at their devices no matter where they are. In Bangkok, the reading habit on the bus remains a newspaper page across a seat, while the commuter bobs their head up and down to scan the headlines. However, daily interaction on the sky train in the inner city allow commuters to rely on their gadget to go online, read news feeds, check social media status, and tap whatever notification sound is buzzing with eyes frozen on the glass screen.
Although the print medium still occupies every newsstand, digital publishers and content providers are entering into this competitive market place. Ongoing investment injected into the publishing industry will position readers as newfound heavy spenders. Back in July, we discussed how Asiabooks was at the top of their game as the main leader of the Thai book market but the collaboration between the two game changers–B2S and AIS–changes the eBook scenario in Thailand completely. B2S, one of Central Group’s subsidiary businesses, is a strong player in bookstore and entertainment shop while AIS has remained Thailand’s largest mobile operator with 33.5 million subscribers (as of December 2011) written in their sales department’s logbook.
OOKBEE as Digital Publication Platform
In order to cater to subscribers, OOKBEE presents itself as a virtual store for both the AIS and B2S clients to offer leading magazines and eBooks. The small startup claims itself to be the “digital publication platform” and continually grows with the financial aid of InVent Plc. The public company’s history can be traced back to InTouch, one of AIS subsidiaries, which in turn can be traced back to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who is currently in exile. Please note that politics and business deals in Thailand can be very complicated, so we will refrain from discussing all the gritty details here.
According to OOKBEE CEO, there are 2 million customers in Thailand alone and the company is expanding their business to the neighboring ASEAN countries due to the growing demand in digital publishing. His expectation is to bring in 300 million baht (USD10 million) in revenue next year. One of their highly effective strategies is to sell the digital content on the distribution channel of AIS. With collaborating effort within their businesses, AIS subscribers who buy certain models of newly promoted smartphones are eligible to free magazines and newspapers downloads from OOKBEE for six months.
Digital Content Downloads in Thailand
The story does not end there when AIS and B2S madly generate up to 370,000 downloads of digital content per month according to The Nation newspaper. Their sales statistics exceed Asiabooks’ humble 100 downloads/month (perhaps there is a misprint in The Nation). Men’s magazines are the unmatchable bestsellers at B2S and AIS whereas fiction and business management categories lead the pack at Asiabooks.
What can we possibly learn from this? Thai readers merely resort to reading in their little spare time with slight interest or devotion to more time-consuming novels. However, one traditional publisher is eyeing print book conversion. Khun Kim Chongsathitwatana of Nanmee Books, the publisher of Thai–translated novels including Harry Potter, expresses her interest to publish out-of-print books written by famous Thai novelists aside from the publisher’s 121 eBooks in the catalogue.
Thai Book Marketplace
For publishers and authors, OOKBEE is the seasoned marketplace to sell their content to one of the fastest-growing networks in Thailand. Although most of their books are in the native language in PDF format, they might consider creating eBooks in reflowable EPUB format in the future. As an avid user of smartphone, I browsed through OOKBEE’s eBook collection and read the sample pages of “Khao Man Gai” to drool over the flavorful chicken rice on the screen. Suddenly, the ideal picture of lunch with enhanced aroma of chicken broth comes alive.
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